As many are aware, Spain is a country of basically many different countries. Each area is different from the next – Cataluña, Basque Country, Andalucía, and Galicia to name a few. While all being Spain, at least for now (see: secession), they are all markedly different from the next. All have just about their own language, culture, and traditions.
My travels through Spain have primarily centered on southern Spain during my study abroad experience. In fact, I never made it north of Madrid in Spain during those six months. However, my first trip to Spain started in Madrid and went north around to Barcelona. I’ve seen a lot varying of the country, even though I’ve only lived in the south. While I love Andalucía, and specifically the city of Granada, I have decided to move north for my year teaching English in Spain to the region of La Rioja, a region I’ve never even visited. This unexplored area instills a large amount of excitement in me for a variety of reasons.
1. It’s unexplored and new to me.
As I eluded to previously, much of northern Spain will be new to me. New places to visit, things to see, and traditions to discover. I cannot wait to be able to take it all in and learn about and live in a new part of Spain, a country in which I hope you can sense my deep affection for. My past travels in the area consist of brief stay in Burgos, Bilbao, Zarautz, San Sebastían, and Pamplona. Barcelona too, although I excluded it as I see it as separate from the rest. These were all seen as either day trips or a one or two night stay on a whirlwind trip during high school.
I know there will be so much I want to discover and unearth. I remember arriving in Granada and the excitement that ensued in exploring a new city. Every new bar, plaza, and sight was enthralling and heightened my senses. That feeling is something I crave and drives me to travel more. In exploring a new area of Spain, I’m sure to evoke these feelings again.
Yes, yes, yes. Granada was the land of free tapas. Pinchos are not free. However, from everything I have read, especially on Gastronomic Nomad and Young Adventuress, about La Rioja and Logroño is that the pinchos are to die for!
I’m still not 100% sure of the distinction between the two, and in all honesty, I’m kind of waiting until I get there to delve more deeply into this question. For those who are curious though, as I am too, some brief research has lead me the answer that tapas are typically small portions of food that can be made into large quantities (raciones), while pinchos are usually more of a single food item that you could get more of. Traditionally, pinchos are served with a skewer in them too. There will be more on this after I arrive in Spain in roughly 4 months!!!!
3. Spanish Accent
La Rioja, situated between Madrid and the Basque Country, speaks more of a traditional Castillian Spanish. When I lived in Granada, they spoke with an Andalusian accent which was incredibly difficult to understand at first until my host mom explained it to me. I’ve often heard Castillian Spanish referred to as “pure” Spanish. It’s spoken much clearer than the Spanish in Andalucía. I believe that this will help with me improving my Spanish when I arrive in Spain. I should point out that I do love the Andalú accent though. It may be a love/hate relationship, but I still love it!
La Rioja is usually associated with wine in people’s minds before they think of it as an autonomous community within Spain. That’s because La Rioja wine comes from this region. Therefore, there will be plenty of wine to go around, and I presume it will be relatively inexpensive which will fit my auxiliar de conversación budget of 700€ a month.
5. Picos de Europa
I enjoy hiking and outdoor adventure so having a highly touted National Park located right in northern Spain is pretty exciting to me. It’s just a bonus that every picture I have seen of the Cantabrian Mountains that make up this park are beautiful to say the least. Saying that I’m looking forward to exploring this area is an understatement. Supposedly the name meaning “Peaks of Europe” in English originated because the mountain peaks were the first part of Europe ships coming from America saw. True or not, it’s a pretty cool story. The food and cider in the nearby community of Austrias isn’t supposed to be half bad either, but then again, what food in Spain is bad?!